Unit 731

Unit 731 (731 部隊 Nana-san-ichi butai?) was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japanese personnel.
Unit 731 was the code name (tsūshōgō) of an Imperial Japanese Army unit officially known as the Kempeitai Political Department and Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory. It was initially set up under the Kempeitai military police of the Empire of Japan to develop weapons of mass destruction for potential use against Chinese, and possibly Soviet forces.

Unit 731 was based at the Pingfang district of Harbin, the largest city in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (now Northeast China).


Shiro Ishii, commander of Unit 731
More than ten thousand people,[1] from which around 600 every year were provided by the Kempeitai,[2] were subjects of the experimentation conducted by Unit 731.
More than 95 percent of the victims who died in the camp based in Pingfang were Chinese and Korean, including both civilian and military.[3] The remaining 5 percent were South East Asians and Pacific Islanders, at the time colonies of the Empire of Japan, and a small number of the prisoners of war from the Allies of World War II.[4]
According to the 2002 International Symposium on the Crimes of Bacteriological Warfare, the number of people killed by the Imperial Japanese Army germ warfare and human experiments is around 580,000.[5] According to other sources, the use of biological weapons researched in Unit 731's bioweapons and chemical weapons programs resulted in possibly as many as 200,000 deaths of military personnel and civilians in China.[6]
Unit 731 was the headquarters of many subsidiary units used by the Japanese to research biological warfare; other units included Unit 516 (Qiqihar), Unit 543 (Hailar), Unit 773 (Songo unit), Unit 100 (Changchun), Unit Ei 1644 (Nanjing), Unit 1855 (Beijing), Unit 8604 (Guangzhou), Unit 200 (Manchuria) and Unit 9420 (Singapore).
Many of the scientists involved in Unit 731 went on to prominent careers in post-war politics, academia, business, and medicine. Some were arrested by Soviet forces and tried at the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials; others surrendered to the American Forces.
On 6 May 1947, Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, wrote to Washington that "additional data, possibly some statements from Ishii probably can be obtained by informing Japanese involved that information will be retained in intelligence channels and will not be employed as 'War Crimes' evidence."[7] The deal was concluded in 1948.
Because of their brutality, Unit 731's actions have since been declared by the United Nations to have been crimes against humanity.[citation needed]
[edit]Formation

In 1932, General Shiro Ishii (石井四郎 Ishii Shirō), chief medical officer of the Japanese Army and protégé of Army Minister Sadao Araki was placed in command of the Army Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory. He and his men built the Zhong Ma Prison Camp (whose main building was known locally as the Zhongma Fortress), a prison/experimentation camp in Beiyinhe, a village 100 kilometers south of Harbin on the South Manchurian Railway.
Ishii organized a secret research group, the "Togo Unit", for the conduct of various chemical and biological investigations. A jailbreak and later explosion (believed to be an attack) in 1935 led Ishii to shut down Zhongma Fortress. He moved to Pingfang, approximately 24 kilometers south of Harbin, to set up a new and much larger facility.[8]
In 1936, Hirohito authorized, by imperial decree, the expansion of this unit and its integration into the Kwantung Army as the Epidemic Prevention Department.[9] It was divided at the same time into the "Ishii Unit" and "Wakamatsu Unit" with a base in Hsinking. From August 1940, all these units were known collectively as the "Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army (関東軍防疫給水部本部)"[10] or "Unit 731" (満州第731部隊) for short.

A special project code-named Maruta used human beings for experiments. Test subjects were gathered from the surrounding population and were sometimes referred to euphemistically as "logs" (丸太 maruta?).[11] This term originated as a joke on the part of the staff due to the fact that the official cover story for the facility given to the local authorities was that it was a lumber mill.[12]
The test subjects were selected to give a wide cross section of the population and included common criminals, captured bandits and anti-Japanese partisans, political prisoners, and also people rounded up by the secret police for alleged "suspicious activities". They included infants, the elderly, and pregnant women.
[edit]Vivisection
Prisoners of war were subjected to vivisection without anesthesia.[13][11]
Vivisections were performed on prisoners after infecting them with various diseases. Scientists performed invasive surgery on prisoners, removing organs to study the effects of disease on the human body. These were conducted while the patients were alive because it was feared that the decomposition process would affect the results.[14][11] The infected and vivisected prisoners included men, women, children, and infants.[15]
Vivisections were also performed on pregnant women, sometimes impregnated by doctors, and the fetus removed.[16]
Prisoners had limbs amputated in order to study blood loss.[11]
Those limbs that were removed were sometimes re-attached to the opposite sides of the body.[11]
Some prisoners' limbs were frozen and amputated, while others had limbs frozen then thawed to study the effects of the resultant untreated gangrene and rotting.
Some prisoners had their stomachs surgically removed and the esophagus reattached to the intestines.[11]
Parts of the brain, lungs, liver, etc. were removed from some prisoners.[17][13][11]
In 2007, Doctor Ken Yuasa testified to the Japan Times that, "I was afraid during my first vivisection, but the second time around, it was much easier. By the third time, I was willing to do it." He believes at least 1,000 people, including surgeons, were involved in vivisections over mainland China.[18]
[edit]Weapons testing
Human targets were used to test grenades positioned at various distances and in different positions.[11]
Flame throwers were tested on humans.[11]
Humans were tied to stakes and used as targets to test germ-releasing bombs, chemical weapons, and explosive bombs.[11]
[edit]Germ warfare attacks
Prisoners were injected with inoculations of disease, disguised as vaccinations, to study their effects.[11]
To study the effects of untreated venereal diseases, male and female prisoners were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea, then studied[11].
Prisoners were infested with fleas in order to acquire large quantities of disease-carrying fleas for the purposes of studying the viability of germ warfare[citation needed].
Plague fleas, infected clothing, and infected supplies encased in bombs were dropped on various targets. The resulting cholera, anthrax, and plague were estimated to have killed around 400,000 Chinese civilians.[11]
Tularemia was tested on Chinese civilians.[19]
Unit 731 and its affiliated units (Unit 1644, Unit 100, et cetera) were involved in research, development, and experimental deployment of epidemic-creating biowarfare weapons in assaults against the Chinese populace (both civilian and military) throughout World War II. Plague-infested fleas, bred in the laboratories of Unit 731 and Unit 1644, were spread by low-flying airplanes upon Chinese cities, coastal Ningbo in 1940, and Changde, Hunan Province, in 1941. This military aerial spraying killed thousands of people with bubonic plague epidemics.[20]
[edit]Other experiments
Prisoners were subjected to other experiments such as:
being hung upside down to see how long it would take for them to choke to death.[11]
having air injected into their arteries to determine the time until the onset of embolism.[11]
having horse urine injected into their kidneys.[11]
being deprived of food and water to determine the length of time until death.
being placed into high-pressure chambers until death.
being exposed to extreme temperatures and developing frostbite to determine how long humans could survive with such an affliction, and to determine the effects of rotting and gangrene on human flesh.[11]
having experiments performed upon prisoners to determine the relationship between temperature, burns, and human survival.
being placed into centrifuges and spun until dead.
having animal blood injected and the effects studied.
being exposed to lethal doses of x-ray radiation.
having various chemical weapons tested on prisoners inside gas chambers.
being injected with sea water to determine if it could be a substitute for saline.
being buried alive. (Victims included infants.)
[edit]Biological warfare

Japanese scientists performed tests on prisoners with plague, cholera, smallpox, botulism, and other diseases.[21] This research led to the development of the defoliation bacilli bomb and the flea bomb used to spread the bubonic plague.[22] Some of these bombs were designed with ceramic (porcelain) shells, an idea proposed by Ishii in 1938.
These bombs enabled Japanese soldiers to launch biological attacks, infecting agriculture, reservoirs, wells, and other areas with anthrax, plague-carrier fleas, typhoid, dysentery, cholera, and other deadly pathogens. During biological bomb experiments, scientists dressed in protective suits would examine the dying victims. Infected food supplies and clothing were dropped by airplane into areas of China not occupied by Japanese forces. In addition, poisoned food and candies were given out to unsuspecting victims and children, and the results examined.
[edit]Unit members

Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii
Lieutenant Colonel Ryoichi Naito
Dr. Masaji Kitano
Yoshio Shinozuka
Yasuji Kaneko
[edit]Divisions

Unit 731 was divided into eight divisions:
Division 1: Research on bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax, typhoid and tuberculosis using live human subjects. For this purpose, a prison was constructed to contain around three to four hundred people.
Division 2: Research for biological weapons used in the field, in particular the production of devices to spread germs and parasites.
Division 3: Production of shells containing biological agents. Stationed in Harbin.
Division 4: Production of other miscellaneous agents.
Division 5: Training of personnel.
Divisions 6–8: Equipment, medical and administrative units.

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